CLEVELAND-- Nearly as soon as the players left the basketball court at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night, crews from the Republican National Convention moved in to begin a "complete makeover" of the arena.
Work began Friday to transition the sports arena into a political convention hall in about four weeks, something that's never been done in less than five weeks, according to Committee on Arrangements CEO Jeff Larson. Hundreds of trucks were waiting to drop off equipment.
"We're prepared," Larson said, noting that planning has been underway for more than a year.
"We can't have delays; we can't have things that get stopped or hiccups that happen," he said.
Two hundred and fifty workers, including contractors, stage hands and lighting technicians, will be at the arena on a daily basis leading up to the start of the convention on July 18, and they will sometimes work around-the-clock, according to Larson.
The Q will still host a watch party for Game 7 of the NBA finals Sunday, but visitors will notice changes, and the arena floor will be a construction zone, Larson said.
In addition to floor and bleacher seats, 3,000 fixed seats will be removed by Sunday, and construction will have begun for media suites and the sub floor for the convention stage, according to Larson.
AT&T crews were at the arena Friday, beginning the process of upgrading technical and wi-fi systems.
"The upgrades we're making inside the arena will be a nice leave behind for the arena and for the city that I think has seen an infrastructure improvement in a lot of different areas," Larson said.
He said every space will be utilized: each shower will have a desk, bathrooms will house work spaces and locker rooms will serve production units. A 140,000 pound lighting grid will contain 836 lights for the convention. Despite reports that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump might give his acceptance speech at another venue, Larson said RNC planners are operating under the assumption he will speak at the Q.
"We're planning right now that Thursday night will be the balloon drop here at the Q, with the candidate giving his final speech here," Larson said.
Outside signage and banners will be changed to incorporate the RNC logo. Work to build out the Gateway East parking garage into office space and a media row for broadcast interviews was set to begin soon.
Larson also said the security plan is going well and that the recent terror attack in Orlando would not have an impact.
"There are not things happening that they are adjusting their plans based on those types of things because they've thought about them all along," Larson said.